Archive for July 2011

The Pros and Cons of Sunscreen

Here we are in the middle of another beautiful summer.  Fortunately, we haven’t been plagued with much rain this season and even just experienced a fairly intense heatwave.  No doubt, when we people of the north get summers like this, we take advantage of them, spending as much time outside in the sun as possible.  However, with the hot sun does come some necessities, especially sunscreen.  Due to its popularity in the media, most people are aware of UV rays and their association with skin cancer.  But, is there any danger to using sunscreen?

There actually have been studies conducted to investigate certain chemicals found in sunscreen.  Interested in the findings?  The very chemicals designed to protect you from developing skin cancer are carcinogenic themselves!  There are a number of chemicals that are found in various sunscreens: Benzophenones, PABA esters, Cinnamates, Salicylates, Digalloyl trioleate, Menthly anthranilate, and Avobenzone.  These chemicals have been found to have some alarming effects within the body that go far beyond blocking you from UV rays.  For one, they are found to be powerful free radical generators.  Free radicals are reactive compounds that damage fats, proteins, and DNA, leading to cancer.  The chemicals found in sunscreen also have estrogenic activity, meaning they will mimic the hormone estrogen and alter the hormones activity.  Just as an additional note, breast cancer is related to estrogen hyperactivity.  Finally, these chemicals are stored in fat within your body, allowing for toxins to easily accumulate over time.  An recently read an article about some research conducted that found traces of these chemicals in human urine.  Even though your are only putting sunscreen on your skin, it absolutely will still absorb into your body.

Outside of the chemical compounds that directly damage the body, sunscreen also blocks your ability to get vitamin D.  The UV rays in sunlight that are blocked by sunscreen are the very rays necessary for your body to synthesize vitamin D3, the active form of vitamin D that your body needs.  If you read some recent research about vitamin D deficiency, you will learn about the link between low vitamin D levels and chronic disease such as cancer and multiple sclerosis.

With this information, I have two recommendations.  One, if you do decide to use sunscreen, you should really consider taking a vitamin D supplement.  The benefits found in taking in sunlight are immediately negated by putting on the lotion.  Secondly, look for natural forms of sunscreen.  Using lotions that contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide are options that will both block the UV rays without the carcinogenic effects.  In the end, it’s great if you make the effort to protect yourself from the dangers of skin damage.  However, being informed of hidden dangers is just as important.  We are often told that sunscreen is the way to protect ourselves from the sun.  Unfortunately, we are never taught how to protect ourselves from sunscreen.


Some information in this article was retrieved on

The Barefoot Runner

If you go out for a run or a walk today, you probably won’t find it hard to point out that runner wearing the Vibram Five Finger shoes.  In the last couple of years, there has been a lot of popularity with barefoot running and the barefoot running shoe. This rise in popularity seems trendy with books, shoe companies, and even youtube videos jumping on the bandwagon.  But is barefoot running only a trend or could there be some logic behind it?

I have done my own reading on barefoot running because there is a debate and I do receive questions about it’s purpose.  The idea of running on your toes and wearing shoes with very little cushion seems so uncomfortable and when one begins running this way, it can be difficult.  However, the more that I consider this style of running, the more logical it becomes.  Let me begin by saying that I love evolutionary biology.  I am a strong believer that humans, as animals, have evolved to our specific body design for a reason.  We are put together in such a way to give us advantages in some areas, while we are very weak in others.  To put it more simply, I believe in keeping things simple and natural.  In a natural sense, humans aren’t meant to even wear shoes.  The human foot is a sensitive and specifically designed structure that is completely capable of absorbing the impact involved in walking and running.  Not only this, when the foot is put in a fully cushioned and supportive shoe, it will eventually weaken because the small muscles of the foot no longer need to do their job.  Hello flat feet.  Another issue with the thick cushioned shoe is that you can’t feel the impact of ground under your feet when you run.  Your feet feel fine so you can hit harder, but this only creates an even stronger impact that travels up your body affecting the ankles, knees, hips, and back.  Could this be the reason that long-time runners eventually develop arthritis in their joints?


The idea behind barefoot running is two-fold.  One, the foot is not heavily supported and the muscles are forced to strengthen and work for themselves.  Second, the impact when hitting the ground is felt by the foot.  As a result, you will learn to step lighter on the toes, saving impact on your joints.  I do have one final note about barefoot running:  Build up slowly.  I see many people who hurt themselves as they switch over to this running style and it is because they buy the shoes and try to run for a few miles on the first day.  If you do buy some barefoot shoes, walk around in them first.  After doing this for a while, try running a very short distance.  Over time, you can increase your distance slowly.  Your feet and calves are going to need to adapt this new experience and if you don’t prepare them, you may end up in my office.